In our home, we try to focus on some of the beautiful things about Ghana in an attempt to try to balance the criticisms that FPD and I have regarding some of the cultural beliefs there. I read Holli’s Ramblings occasionally, she acts as a cultural broker for me. She has lived, as a “Westerner” (she’s Canadian), in Ghana for a long time. She knows more of the culture of Ghana than I ever saw in my four visits. I, until my last trip, very rarely left the walls of the orphanage. When I did, I spent most of my time inside the walls of a certain large gray building in Accra. I got a good feel for some of the cultural norms, but not like Holli. Some of these norms were beautiful and made me love Ghana, some of them broke my heart. Some are just used as an excuse for abuse.
The Director of the orphanage that my kids are from, who now resides in jail, used cultural norms to explain away what I considered to be abuse. I never spoke up, out of respect for Ghana’s “culture”. I was told, by certain Americans as well, that the whippings that occurred at the school were also “just Ghana”. I’m not excusing myself, I should have stood and said something a lot sooner. But, I was a newcomer, and respected what the people who had been there before me said regarding the brutality. It wasn’t until I met a Ghanaian family who were well-educated that I learned that this isn’t “just Ghana” anymore. There are some schools that don’t correct students by whipping them. There are some schools that are starting to instill a sense of self-worth in students, even the ones that are the most poor. My Ghanaian kids attend an American school that focuses on respect. Respecting yourself is one of the main principals taught there as well. They have embraced it wholeheartedly. They often talk to me about how they wish their friends in Ghana could see their school now, a school that doesn’t have to “whip” the kids.
I also know that “witchcraft” plays a huge part in cultural beliefs in Ghana. At my kid’s orphanage it was used to explain why some children were whipped more than others. It was used to explain why some children were never fed. It was used to explain why some children should be shunned by others. I didn’t know this until my older children told me this when they got home. I want to vomit just thinking about how many times I tried to figure out why a child wasn’t gaining weight, even when I left supplements for them. My kids answered that question when they arrived home, that child or children were being starved because they were a witch. The only time they ate well was when I purchased food with the money from Abe’s Fund. Disgusting. This article is incredibly graphic, and heartbreaking, but is an example of how the belief in witchcraft causes abuse even in modern Ghana.
These are the aspects of my children’s “culture” that I have trouble justifying or explaining to them. Saying that this is part of the “culture” in Ghana is no longer an excuse. This needs to stop.
who will continue to try to find beauty in all this, just for her kids.